This is a guest post by Stephen Rose
The Gibson Firebird is an iconic guitar from a legendary manufacturer. First introduced in the 1960s, the Firebird’s shape and sleek lines were created by an automotive designer who Gibson hired to add to the already unique shapes like, the Flying V and the Explorer. Players such as Warren Haynes and Stephen Stills have been known to use a Firebird, but no one is more associated with the Firebird than Johnny Winter. Given the guitar’s rich history, I was excited for the opportunity to review the Gibson Elliot Easton “Tikibird” Firebird. I was also looking forward to playing a Firebird because it is one of the few guitars that I have not played before.
When I took the guitar out of the case, I knew I had made the right decision. The paint job is not one that I have seen on another guitar, and that alone is enough to make it stand out. The color, Gold Mist Poly, is really striking and stands out because it is a color not seen on any other guitar and I hope Gibson considers adding it to other models. Prior to getting this Firebird, my favorite color that Gibson offered was Pelham Blue, now I can add Gold Mist Poly to that list. Aside from this impressive color, the Firebird has some features that are specific to this instrument like: a Bigsby vibrato, ’57 Classic Humbuckers, Steinberger gearless tuners, and four tonal switches placed below the bridge humbucker.
All of these features work well with this guitar and instantly make it a go to instrument for the player who only has room for one guitar. The Bigsby works well with this guitar and there is also a Vibramate Spoiler string loader, which helps when changing strings. Anyone who has used a Bigsby and fuddled around with getting the ball end of the string to stay on the little peg knows what I mean. I like that this guitar comes with 2 Classic ’57 humbuckers instead of the mini humbuckers. Most of the Firebird models that Gibson offers come with the mini humbuckers, but I prefer the regular ’57 Classics. These pickups work well with this guitar and with the tone woods selected for this instrument.
One of the main highlights of this guitar are the four tonal switches. The first switch splits the coil of the neck pickup when in the neck position; the second splits the coil for the bridge pickup when in that position; the third switch engages the pickups to be reverse wound and in reverse polarity of each other when in the middle position; and the fourth, when engaged, routes the bridge pickup straight to the output jack. This is helpful when you need to switch to the bridge pickup and not worry about getting to the selector switch.
Looking at pictures of the Firebird prior to ordering, I was concerned with the switch placement, however the location of the switches does not interfere with strumming or playing. Another feature common to Firebirds, but new to me, was the Steinberger gearless tuners. I really liked these and they keep the guitar in tune very well, even when liberally using the Bigsby. For this demo I used my Mesa Boogie Mark V combo without any pedals. This guitar excelled in every different setting I tried on the amp, from a clean bright setting to an extreme crunch/distorted one.
Gibson offers a number of signature guitars with a wide range of features and appointments. Some are very artist specific, like Zakk Wylde’s famous Bullseye or Buzzsaw Les Pauls, while others are slightly less ostentatious like this model. Aside from a small Elliot Easton signature on the back of the headstock and the Tiki graphic on the pickguard there is nothing artist or band specific. I look for versatility and reliability when purchasing a guitar, and this Firebird fits those requirements and then some. For those with similar standards, you will not be disappointed with its features, playability, or tonal varieties. The Gibson Elliot Easton “Tikibird” Firebird is a limited edition guitar, so try and check one out while they’re still in production.
Check prices for the Gibson Elliot Easton “Tikibird” on Musician’s Friend